Dude…You’re on a Detour

(An “Own It” series for Dudes)

My last post had to do with my recent travels, with quite a bit of levity. This post also has to do with those travels, but with a more introspective tone. Balance.

My travels have taken me through 13 states. Guess what? They all have construction going on. Shocking. And guess what? Google maps is there for you, in the congestion and the isolation, ready to be silent or ready to give you an alternate route.

Another term for alternate route is detour. I literally took one detour that had me circle all four exit and entrance ramps at an interstate exchange to detour around a closed exit. That was a first. Pretty sweet, actually.

In my trek from Ohio to New York, I had a long time to think. One thing I was chewing on was a phrase I kept throwing at my Columbus friend, “You have options.” And as I passed a couple of detours and watched various driver’s reactions to the traffic flow changes, including my own, some interesting thoughts about detours and options in life came to mind. So here they are in randomness:

  • Some detours in life come at you with no warning-GPS lost the signal, the accident ahead just happened, the road seemed closed for no reasons. You don’t know what it’s about, how long it’s going to last, and maybe even uncertain if the new route really is taking you in the right direction. These life detours could be anything from financial to physical to vocational to relational. You really aren’t sure if you have options or not. This delay is full of uncertainty.
  • Other detours in life come with a few warning signs-“Road work 5 miles ahead. Left lanes closes in 1 mile. Detour ahead.” Reasons may be clearer because of better information, which may also give you options to consider for getting through the delay sooner. The delay is real but with less uncertainty, less stress on the traveler.
  • For a little bit of honesty, let’s acknowledge that we drivers actually bring some detours on ourselves. Maybe we failed to listen to the GPS, or arrogantly said, “She doesn’t know what she’s saying.” Maybe we purposefully chose to take a detour to see something that looked interesting that takes us off the planned course. And we are mostly okay with these detours. Some end well, some don’t. Regardless, we have to own the fact that we chose the detour.
  • The truth about most detours is this: they don’t ruin our lives. We may immediately start worrying about arriving in time or disappointing the in-laws or missing the meeting, but the end of most stories is we eventually get there and all is well.

So what’s a dude to do when approaching a detour or waking up to the reality he’s in one that he didn’t see coming?

  1. Consider your options
  2. Thank God you’re still on a road and not under it
  3. Take a breathe
  4. Look at the scenery that you wouldn’t otherwise have seen
  5. Adjust your speed, your expectations, your plans
  6. Realize that 15-30 minutes is about the same time it takes to get your hair cut. It won’t last forever.
  7. If the Spirit leads you to take a detour, listen and obey
  8. Ask God “what” questions rather than “why” questions
  9. Look for the purpose in the detour. You might find that it’s taking you to a better road.
  10. Turn up the music. Lower the windows. Enjoy the ride.
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Dude…You’re in the Restroom…at the rest stop

(An “Own It” series for Dudes)

This month I’ve been doing quite a bit of driving. Trips have been anywhere from three to nine hours in length. Therefore, I’ve had reason to make a few pitstops. One such stop was memorable. It was a rest area in PA.

Frankly, PA has nothing to do with it. I’ve experienced the same scenario before, but in a different way. In the other scenarios I wasn’t actually in the room, so not the same experience. I’ll get back to that.

The experience has to do with dudes and their phones. Before you go there, no dude’s phone got dunked…not this time. Water wasn’t involved. 

When I walked in, there was a dude in the first stall. While a couple others of us “rested,” the dude in the stall’s phone rang. And, you guessed it, he answered it. Not only answered it, but he was still carrying on the conversation when I walked out.

Dude, you’re in a stall…using the restroom…at the rest stop. Doing business while doing business isn’t something the rest of us need to hear, see, or filter through any of our senses. For us other dudes, please observe the following manly restroom and phone pointers:

  • If your phone is your business line, consider yourself out of the office for a few minutes when you enter this “not private” office. For that matter, for your customer’s sake go ahead and declare that for all restrooms.
  • If you know that the ringing of your phone is simply irresistible for you to ignore, leave the phone in your vehicle. Most likely, you’ll get finished faster as well as get back to your phone and the highway more timely.
  • If the restroom becomes somewhat of a man cave for reading or playing games on your phone at your actual office or home, keep it that way. Get in and out at the rest area. Here’s a suggestion: pretend you’re at the stadium and it’s halftime. There’s a reason why reading materials aren’t provided.
  • If you must carry your phone with you for reasons for which you probably need to see a counselor, let all calls go to voice mail. People really don’t expect you to answer 24/7. They get it. They most likely won’t get it when they hear flushing and other noises from the other business guys in the room.
  • And back to that other thing, don’t be that guy…the guy that has to answer, “In the restroom,” when asked by your caller, “Where are you?” Your caller doesn’t need that visual. Again, senses.
  • Finally and seriously, own your phone. Don’t let your phone own you.

Life Balance Exercise: How’s Your Awe?

I just finished reading Awe by Paul David Tripp, second time, first 2017 reading. If you’ve yet to read it, I encourage you to bump it up your list.

Here’s an example why. Chapter 13 is entitled “Work.” The challenge is to consider how your awe of God compares to your awe of work. 

Could it be that you’re asking work to do for you what it cannot do?

God is too wise and loving ever to call you to one area of responsibility that will necessitate you being irresponsible in another.

The drawing above illustrates Tripp’s challenge. These domains are what we have been given in life, our calling. Keeping them in balance, owning our responsibility is vital.

To check your life balance, here are three questions and suggestions regarding your awe:

  1. In each individual domain, rate your awe of God in that domain using a scale of 1-10.
  2. Considering the three domains together where the ideal would be a balance of thirds (33.33% each), what percentage would you give each of them today? (Consider drawing your own graph as a visual)
  3. What can you address in these domains to achieve better balance and responsibility and to deepen your awe of God?

Handicaps 

​If I had a mind to brag a little, I could probably do it without looking ridiculous, and I’d still be speaking plain truth all the way. But I’ll spare you. I don’t want anyone imagining me as anything other than the fool you’d encounter if you saw me on the street or heard me talk. Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

2 Corinthians 12:6‭-‬10 MSG 

I had dinner last night with a guy who has “handicaps.”

  • He has back problems. 
  • His wife battles Crohn’s.
  • He is a bivocational pastor.
  • He has 2 special needs kids.

And that’s his present. There’s more in the past.

Yet, he said throughout our talk, “God has used adversity to mature me, to deepen my relationship with him. I wouldn’t want to repeat any of it, but I’m thankful for it.”

  • What handicaps/limitations can you learn to take in stride and with good cheer? 
  • What abuse, accidents, bad breaks, or opposition do you need to let God take over? 
  • What could be your strength testimony, your handicap story?

“There’s No Crying in Baseball”

(This is the eighth post in a series on wisdom from baseball co-written with Mark Stanifer.)

It’s a movie line. It’s funny. It’s memorable. But it’s not accurate. 

We may try to maintain an “it’s only a game” mentality in our recreational endeavors. But like it or not, our passions have a way of seeping out. Positive and negative, character and opinions, warts and all. 

In the 1992 movie, A League of Their Own, actor Tom Hanks plays character Jimmy Dugan. Dugan is a washed-up former ball player, who’s now a drunk managing a women’s baseball team. Not exactly how he thought his life would turn out. Dugan didn’t want his players showing any emotion that wasn’t related to the game. He didn’t care about his player’s personal lives. He wasn’t interested in contributing to their lives off the field. Why? Largely because he wasn’t managing his own life off the field very well. Here’s the truth: You can’t lead, manage, or contribute well to a team when you aren’t managing yourself well.

Suppressing your emotions isn’t managing yourself well. Crying along with other forms of expression is our body’s relief mechanism. Hurt or joy. Confusion or celebration. Frustration or praise. Disappointment or worship. Doubt it? Watch the World Series. Guaranteed there will be tears from these men, both the winners and the losers, once the final game has been played.

As fans, we understand this, expect it. In a way, it makes these superheroes of their sport somehow more human. We can relate to them more this way.

What about non-baseball life, the emotions of average life day to day? Many people choose to join Hanks in deceiving themselves into believing this line, “There’s No Crying in Life.” The reasons why are varied: perceived as weakness, doesn’t help the situation, there’s no time, real men don’t cry. These are all based on concern about how you will be perceived by others.

Perception can feel like reality, but that doesn’t make it true or beneficial. Brené Brown addresses some of this in her book Daring Greatly. She writes,

“We’ve come to the point where, rather than respecting and appreciating the courage and daring behind vulnerability, we let our fear and discomfort become judgment and criticism. We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us. Vulnerability is life’s great dare. It’s life asking, “Are you all in?””

The reality is there is crying in life. Choosing to live otherwise leads to many wrong efforts in dealing with life. Frankly, it’s full of pride and selfishness which tears down a team rather than unites it.

With my best Hanks impression I’ll say this, “Get over it. Crying is a good thing. Go ahead. Let it out. It’s part of life. Your teammates will thank you. And mostly, so will you.”

Hitters: Even the Best Fail More Than They Succeed

(This is the seventh in a series on wisdom from baseball. In this article, Mark Stanifer continues to mine his playing experience for insights into how to better play the game of life.)

One thing that has always fascinated me about baseball is the best hitters still fail to get a hit about 7 times out of 10. Think about that for a minute. Only 3 in 10 appearances at the plate result in a hit. The all-time MLB leader, Ty Cobb, finished with a career average of .3664. This season, José Altuve leads all players with a .350 average. There aren’t too many professions where a 65% failure rate would be tolerated, let alone celebrated as hall of fame worthy.

Learning to live with failure is a must to be successful in baseball. It cannot be avoided. It is a key part of why success requires winning the mental game first. Interestingly, being successful in life also involves dealing with failure. I’m using “successful” here in a very broad context — parenting, running a business, balancing career and family, living fulfilled, following Jesus. Regardless of what you are pursuing, you are bound to make some mistakes along the way. The key is how you look at those mistakes.

Defining Failure

My Mac dictionary says the verb fail is defined as “being unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal.” This has long been my only understanding of failure — an unsuccessful attempt to do something right. In fact, and I admit this with some embarrassment, there have been times I avoided even making an attempt at something for fear of experiencing failure. I realize some of this is my personality wiring, but more often I have not appreciated the benefit that comes with failure.

There is another way to look at failure — neglect to make an attempt. Thomas Edison famously stated that he didn’t fail in his many attempts to make a light bulb, he simply discovered 10,000 ways not to. He also said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Do you think his perspective on failure had anything to do with his success?

Learning From Mistakes

For the successful batter, there is a balance between expectations and reality. If you don’t first expect to succeed then the likelihood of success is diminished. But regardless of your level of expectation, it does not guarantee a hit. I have always believed that making mistakes are rich experiences for learning, for others. But I have not always been so understanding for myself. Maybe you know what I mean.

What do you do when you swing and miss? For some it is a helmet toss or slamming the bat. But after the emotion passes, the successful batter will reflect on the at bat — “What did I do well?” “What could I do better?” “What pitch did I miss?” He analyzes what he can in preparation for the next time. It would be foolish for the player to say “I didn’t get a hit so I’m not even going to bat next time.” Is it not also foolish for us to take the same approach?

Keep Looking For At Bats

Professional hitters are really good. We often say things like “this guy is horrible” or “I can’t believe how bad he is” but that is a relative comparison. And while natural ability has a lot to do with it, much of what makes them so good is they had a lot of practice, a lot of at bats. It’s not always true that the more you play the better you get, but the more at bats you have the more chances there are to get better. I think that’s why so many successful people emphasize the importance of failure as part of growth. They recognize that with each attempt there is an opportunity to get better, to get a hit.

There are no stats per se to measure our life’s batting average. Even if there were, I’m pretty certain that none of us would bat 1.000. Maybe you struck out in your last at bat. Or maybe it has been a while since you’ve even been to the plate. Whatever your game, your previous at bat doesn’t have to be your last. Consider your attitude towards failure. Use failure as an opportunity to learn. Don’t let it keep you from trying again. You can stay in the game and continue to get better, but the next move is up to you.

Sabbatical: Race #3

Delaware ✔

Yesterday morning at 7am around 400 runners gathered at the Dover International Speedway to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles. 
2:00:04 later, I’d checked off state 15. 

Last week a non-longdistancerunning friend asked me what I think about while running. So Mark, here’s a rewind as best I remember. 

M1 This is cool, running on the speedway, but not ideal. Stay slow until we leave the track.

M2 10:04 was a little slow. Let’s pick it up. Pass the guy in the Bama hat and say, “Roll Tide.”

M3-5 This is a nice neighborhood. Check out these old houses. Feeling good. Decent pace. Keep it through 5.

M6 Almost half done. Overall pace 9:27. Push to drop that by at least a second every remaining mile. End goal, finish with 9:15 pace. 

M7 There go the full marathoners. Now the mental game really kicks in. We’re not in the city anymore. Don’t let the pace slow because there aren’t as many runners around you. Stay with these two runners; they have a good pace.

M8 They slowed down, admitted they went out too fast. Move on. That millennial that just passed me will be the last person to pass me.

M9-10 Keep slowly picking off each of the group of five ahead. You might have a shot at catching the 2-hour group.

M11 These Alabama compression socks rock. This weather rocks. This course rocks. I can beat last weekend’s times. What is going on?

M12 Where is that 2-hour pacer? Oh, there he is. PUSH!

M13 No one told me the steepest hill was at the end. Get over it. Fly down the other side. You have done a negative split. I NEED ICE CREAM!

(There you have it. Below is the proof of states 13-15.)

Sabbatical: Race #2

Kentucky ✔

I found the Iron Horse Half Marathon race online. It is slated as a top destination race by Runner’s World. I now know why.

Midway, Kentucky isn’t far from downtown Lexington. Population, less than 2000. They may have as many horses. And this morning, it seemed about half the town was running the race.

The course really was picturesque. If you are a horselover and a runner, you should schedule this race. Be advised, it’s hilly. But you’ll be glad you did it. You feel like you are spending the morning on the horse farm. Very unique setting.

As for my “performance,” this was a test. How would I do running two halves back to back? How prepared was I? Would I manage myself well before, during, and after both races? 

I give myself a 90%. Surprisingly my thighs are worse off than my calves. I’ll take these two results happily and move on to State #15, possibly this next Saturday. Stay tuned

Sabbatical: Race #1

Indiana✔

Almost 1,600 of us converged on the streets of Evansville, Indiana, at 7amCST to run 13.1 miles. I finished in 2:03:31. Pleased with that.

EVENT REVIEW:

Everything about this race was done very well. 

  • Packet pickup was easy to find and speedy. (We got buckets along with our goodie bags…still not sure why)
  • Race parking was a breeze-plenty of it, and I unknowingly parked one block from the start line. Unheard of. 
  • The course was mostly flat-perfect for Floridians. It weaved nicely through neighborhoods and parks. 
  • The community presence was great. Very few areas weren’t covered with spectators, volunteers, first aid, or policemen.
  • Plenty of encouragement and refreshments at the finish line. Shout out to the announcer for calling out “John Gregory from Bradenton, Florida” repeatedly until the crowd cheered.

PERFORMANCE REVIEW: 

  • If I weren’t running again in the morning, I probably could have pushed to get under 2 hours. Good to know.
  • My pace stayed pretty steady through 10M. 57-degree start had a lot to do with that.
  • I surprised myself being able to pick up the pace the last half mile. Assimilating that on the treadmill pays off.
  • Shout out to Holly and another young lady who unknowingly paced me from miles 9-11. Strong job, Ladies.
  • State 13 done. On to 14 tomorrow. (Bucket list item: run a race in every state)

Sabbatical: Week 2 Project

This morning I headed out from TN where I’ve spent the week in Nashville. The weekend will take me to Indiana and Kentucky to run two races, and I’ll end up in Ohio to visit a friend for a few days before heading to NY on Tuesday.

A few weeks ago I posted a video teaser about my sabbatical activities. You were probably smart enough to figure out that the video footage was from a recording studio. If not, here’s the scoop. 

Over the years, people have encouraged me to do a recording. I’ve always dismissed the idea for lots of reasons, the main one being time. So when I was given the opportunity to take a month’s sabbatical, that excuse was no longer valid. Back in the spring, I connected with a producer, and we’ve been working on this project since then with the target of being prepared to do the recording this week. Target met.

I could write a lot about this process, but for now I’ll just relay what we did this week.

  • Monday was a full day at The Library Studio in Joelton where 18 string and brass players added their talents to seven of the songs. In the picture above is Dave Bechtel, producer, and Robert Nugent, arranger and pianist.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday the woodwinds were added, and we got vocals for nine of the songs recorded.
  • So yesterday was the final day, getting the last song recorded and some final tweaking.

The project is by no means complete. But you are now “in the know.” I’ll share more as we move along.